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This is a good time for Canadian tennis fans. This country is producing more tennis talent than ever. For those of us who grew up in an earlier tennis era, yearning for a homegrown star to cheer for, it seems fantastically surreal that the terms “Canadian” and “top 10” are no longer mutually exclusive.

Of course, Milos Raonic will need to work hard to recapture the No. 3 position he reached in the ATP rankings in 2016. But while his current 22nd-place status may disappoint his fans, and Mr. Raonic himself, it still looks impressive to anyone who grew up when Canadian players rarely cracked the top 100. As for Denis Shapovalov, the 19-year-old keeps giving us every reason to expect much bigger things from him. Let ’s hope he can handle the pressure.

While Canadian tennis is on a roll, however, it’s not such a great time for tennis fans over all. As the French Open gets under way on May 21, with Spain’s Rafael Nadal looking unstoppable as he goes after a record 11th title at Roland-Garros, it’s worth asking whether the sport’s utter domination by the same two players hasn’t killed all the fun.

Mr. Nadal and Roger Federer won’t be facing off at Roland-Garros, of course, since the Swiss superstar – considered by many to be the greatest tennis player ever – is skipping the clay-court season as he prepares to pursue a record ninth Wimbledon championship in July. After winning the Australian Open in January, Mr. Federer has not given up on capturing Grand Slam titles, despite winning a record 20 of them.

How is that possible? Mr. Federer, who turns 37 in August, is nearly twice Mr. Shapovalov’s age. He is a decade older than Bjorn Borg was when the legendary Swede retired in 1983. Yet, he recaptured the No. 1 ranking on the ATP chart earlier this week – the oldest player to do so – after Mr. Nadal’s quarter-final loss to Dominic Thiem at last week’s Madrid Open.

Open this photo in gallery:

Rafael Nadal shows his dejection during his straight-sets defeat against Dominic Thiem in their quarterfinal match at the Madrid Open on May 11.Clive Brunskill/REUTERS

Even the best have bad days, now and then. But Mr. Nadal’s overall record on clay defies belief. Not even the statisticians can figure it out. ”Tennis has never seen a player who excels more on a single surface than Nadal,” Tom Perrotta wrote recently on the FiveThirtyEight website. “He owns a record that, in tennis, doesn’t compute – it shouldn’t be possible. His overall record on clay is 401-35: Yes, that’s 92 per cent.”

Mr. Borg, considered the greatest player ever by non-Federer fans, had an 86 per cent win record on clay. But since he played far fewer matches than Mr. Nadal on that surface, it is impossible to extrapolate from his average how he would have performed had he played into his 30s. Yet, Mr. Nadal, who turns 32 in June, has actually improved with age, Mr. Perrotta says.

Mr. Nadal ’s loss last week to Mr. Thiem in Madrid marked the first time he had been defeated on clay in a year. It came just after he had won his 50th consecutive set on the sport’s slipperiest surface.

Tennis, like any professional sport, has always been about more than the game.

Even a diehard Rafa fan must admit that it wouldn’t hurt to break things up a bit. But Mr. Nadal, after being sidelined by injuries in the past, seems more focused, and merciless toward his opponents, than ever. Reflecting on his surprise loss to Mr. Thiem, Mr. Nadal said: “What makes me happy is [that] I feel fit, can compete with possibilities every week.”

I hope Mr. Nadal keeps playing as long as he can at his current level. He is a case study in determination and perseverance. His work ethic is to be admired. He’s extremely likable. And humble in a way the cool Mr. Federer, despite his unfailing politeness, is not.

But let’s face it. Tennis, like any professional sport, has always been about more than the game. It was the larger-than-life personalities and the on- and off-court rivalries that made following tennis during Mr. Borg’s era so enthralling. The tension was at times unbearable, but at least you never knew how things were going to turn out. Often now, you don’t even care.

New York Times film critic A.O. Scott captured the essence of what I mean when he recently wrote that actor Shia LaBeouf “pulls off a remarkable feat of underacting” in portraying John McEnroe in the movie Borg vs. McEnroe. The American tennis bad boy was an incorrigible brat whose behaviour on the court would never be tolerated now. Today’s version of a tennis bad boy, Australia’s Nik Kyrgios, looks like a choir boy in comparison. But who can deny Mr. McEnroe made tennis fun?

Fun, regardless of how you measure today’s tennis greats, no longer even enters the equation.

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